Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day 2-4: Introductions

Thursday was a get to know you day. I was out at the barn all day and made it a point to spend time with the new guy any time he needed feeding or watering. I always start them out with hay as well as hay cubes with whole oats. Mustangs usually will not eat grain directly because it is not something they find out in the wild, so you have to wean them onto it so that they can develop a taste for it. With as jumpy as the new guy was I did not feel comfortable to even be in the pen with him. I brought a stool to outside of the pen and hand fed him hay through the bars of the enclosure. He would take the hay and lay his ears flat back as he stepped away to chew it. This went on for awhile. It was like any time he would get a whiff of my hand he would back his ears as if to say "you stink like human!" That evening during the evening feeding session, a friend of mine was out to the barn. She is learning the art of animal communication through mental images. I have had her talk to mustangs that I have had in the past with great success. She sat with me as I was feeding the new guy hay and asked me if I have named him. Up to this point I had thought about Cole from his color, although it was fitting it was not sticking with me. My friend Hannah was quiet for a minute then turned to me and said, "I think he wants to be named after a bird." Two seconds later we turned to each other and said "raven" at the same time! That was that. We had a name and are quiet sure it is the name he wanted!

Friday we did more of the same, but this time I ventured into the pen with Raven. I set my stool inside and quietly hand fed him. He was still pretty jumpy at this point and can not handle any quick movements. By the end of the day i could sit, feed him hay and drag a string across his head, a big step in desensitizing him for getting a halter on. I also had time to look more into his history. He is five years old and had only been in captivity since April of this year! Up until that point he was on the range as a studd (unfixed male) possibly with a family band of his own. He is gelded (fixed) now, but I can tell every instinct that has kept him alive up to this point is very against what I am trying to accomplish.

Saturday: Stoked about my progress from the day before I was anxious to get back working with Raven. His pen is located on the outskirts of the feed pen where we feed all thirty of the resident horses at Whispering Hills Farm. I got to the barn about the time feeding started . I prepared his meal of hay, soaked hay cubes, and his Equine Natural Choice herb combination. I had put him on a starting combination of immune support to alleviate the travel stress, blood detox, and herbs to support the mental stress of every thing that has happened to him. I got myself staged for my feeding session; put the stool in the pen, put the feed cubes out side the pen with the water bucket and had my hay in hand. I entered the pen, sat on the stool and started to hand feed raven his hay. I get about five handfuls in when all of the sudden Raven grabs a bite of hay, lays his ears back, swings his head to an equine by standard on the out side of his pen, and charges the pen wall. I tossed the hay straight up in the air and lept to me feet. I was out of that pen faster then you could say s**t! ( I know because I said it!) Of course as soon as I made my move out of the pen ravens focus went from the horses threatening his feed to running away from me! He immediately threw himself against the pen wall on the other side. Both of took a deep breath and looked at each other, adrenaline running high. That experience was definitely a step backwards in our journey but it happens. I abandoned feeding in the pen the rest of the day and resorted back to feeding the through the panels in the afternoon. It was disappointing to take a step back after making such great progress the night before, but it is not my time frame that matters but his. Raven, just like every mustang before him, will tell me how fast I can progress with him. As long as I respect that, when they are ready they have always given me everything they've got, and raven will be know different.

Day 1: Raven's Delivery

It was about a month ago that I received an e-mail from the Mustang Heritage Foundation inviting me Betsy Moles back to Fort Worth, Texas to compete in the Mustang Magic Competition. This competition is for those trainers that competed in the Extreme Mustang Makeover Competitions the previous year and placed in the top five at one of those competitions. I say invited back because I was fortunate enough to compete there with a horse named Cody last January. Although I did not blog about him you can read an abridged version of his journey on my website at . Even though I am knee deep with Eclipse, a mustang that I am preparing for the extreme Mustang Makeover in Murfreesboro, TN at the end of October, I gladly accepted the invitation. In this particular competition twenty five trainers are given a mustang and they have 120 days to take them as far as they can in training. Because all of us have proven ourselves already in other competitions, we are usually given older more challenging horses to work with.

The pick for the mustang was in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma. In order to save on gas expenses, a handful of us in the south east collaborated on the pick up. I have never done that before, but was willing to give it a try. One big drawback to this is not being able to take advantage of haltering the mustang as it is loaded. I got the call on Wednesday from Marc Chancey, a fellow mustanger from South Georgia that I had the pleasure of meeting in my Ocala competition, saying he was in the area ready to make the exchange. We decided on the Publix Parking lot at the corner of I-75 and HWY 92 in Acworth, Ga. He showed up in his open stock trailer loaded with three wild horses. We backed our trailers end to end and opened his into mine. The first thing I noticed about the new mustang was how amazingly black he was and what a beautiful forelock he had. Once the gates were open with out a hitch we were able to get the mustang to step over the small gap into my trailer. Once loaded Mark and I settled the paper work and chatted a little about the mustangs given out for this competition. They are all between 5 and 6 years old and fresh off the range. Of the five that were picked up from Oklahoma, the one slotted for me was the jumpiest. I believe it! As we were chatting we were able to pet the others on the rump through the trailer but as soon as we touched mine on the rump he kicked the trailer and jumped to the other side.

I got him back to Whispering Hills Farm, his new home for the next 120 days. Yah so what do I do now? Well while I had him on the trailerI thought I would try something. It worked to my advantage with Eclipse that he and Pandora that both ended up in the front of the trailer where we could touch them both because they could not move away. So, I tried to recreate that scenario by volunteering Eclipse to hop into the trailer for the mere purpose of taking up space. At first Eclipse was unclear on the concept and was continuously antagonizing the new guy by biting him on the rump! Once we got eclipse under control i spent a good hour touching the new guy through the openings of the trailer. He finally got to where he relaxed to the point where he no longer jumped every time I touched him. I was able to put a lead on his number collar which is the thing that was on him. When I felt i was ready I backed the trailer up to his new enclosure and we off loaded him. I could finally get a good look at him. Wow! Jet black with a big white blaze down his nose, and on the back legs two matching white stockings. He is roughly 15hands at the wither. Oh and that lead I was able to get on his number collar, well it lasted about 2 seconds once off the trailer. He promptly stepped on it and pulled the collar off:( So there I was yet again with a naked mustang fresh off the range in my pen wondering what will happen next.

I know this horse is meant for me. Each horse you get from the BLM has a four digit number that is for identification. Last year my magic horse had the number of 6787, the new guys number is 1787. I also find it ironic that my first Make Over horses number was 4494 and Eclipse's number is 4454. Any one who knows anything about numerology, I would love to have some incite to this coincidence.